Not long ago, I spoke with an artist who was in an intense planning and transition phase in her business. She had lots of work to do, both in her studio and home office. She needed long stretches of time to focus on growing her portfolio and her sales.
But she also had family obligations. Her elderly parents needed attention, and she was the daughter who lived closest to them. She was dealing with a persistent problem, and explained "They don't respect my time. I'm self-employed, and they feel they can call me any time of the day."
Her family clearly didn't take her work seriously, and thought she was available at any time, since her schedule was "flexible." This was wreaking havoc with her ability to do studio work, and to accomplish much.
Another artist I know is caught between in-laws who live with her and making time for stepchildren as well. She also works a part-time job while trying to get her small business off the ground. I give her a lot of credit for doing an amazing job juggling everything, because each week involves a complex system of scheduling and crossing her fingers that it all goes smoothly.
Fulfilling your desire to be an artist and develop a business while dealing with the distractions and commitments of everyday life can be very frustrating. There are sacrifices to be made, but also planning to be done. Consider these essentials when working towards creating a balance:
Claim your space. Separate your studio area from family space, and keep it that way. Some artists do their best work when they are out of the house. Having rented studio space reinforces the business nature of your art, and it takes you away from distractions that can pull you off-track. That studio space may end up being your creative haven. Turn off the phone, and give yourself the time to make art.
Set your boundaries. This takes self-discipline and commitment. Family members must agree to respect your work hours and give you the time to create. A closed door should mean "do not disturb" unless in emergency. Get childcare for young children who need supervision. It's a business expense, but worth it!
Make your schedule. Create a regular routine that works around your other obligations as much as possible, but that is consistent so that others know and respect your work hours.
I asked some artist friends how they coped with busy schedules, successfully balancing their business with family life.
Artist Robin Pedrero is an early riser. She says, "Getting up earlier than my family really gives me a jump on things. It enables me to start working on my business before I need to take care of theirs.." She keeps an ambitious studio schedule and tends to work out in the afternoons.
Painter Joyce Wynes stays on task by organizing her day. She explains, ” Because I am a fine artist and paint abstract images on canvas, that is my first priority. I set myself a goal that I complete 1 painting a week or 4 paintings per month. That means I set aside most of my work time everyday to paint or coming up with ideas for my next paintings. That usually takes up from 3-5 hours daily.
Any extra time after that is used for promotion, social media and research. A To-Do list daily helps keep me on task. There are always going to be interruptions because life happens, but I find that as long as I have my list, I can quickly get back on track. I use my phone calendar & alerts to remind me when my schedule has to be changed for a day. Organization is the only way I can accomplish what I do, so I make sure that I stay focused to the job at hand.”